Messing About on the River Thames
Check out our ideas for Great Family Days Out. For a rainy day visit one of the Thames Valley Museums. The simplest way to explore the river is a rowing boat, or if you are looking for an adventure why not hire a boat for the week or a few days and create some great family memories. Why not try Kayaking and join a tour with London Kayak Tours, see the iconic sights of Windsor and London and have some family fun, no experience necessary; or try canoeing with Henley Canoe Hire.
Day Boat Hire
Hobbs of Henley provides rowing boats and a variety of other self-drive options available for hire by the hour or by the day including diesel, outboard and electric launches. Take a picnic and enjoy a lazy summer's day boating. For a special family occasion book an Edwardian launch for up to 12.
Salters Steamers, Oxford, offers a different type of boating experience. As well as electric motorboats and diesel day boats, Salters hires punts. Punting remains one of the most enjoyable summer activities and a quintessential pastime for Oxonians.
Also hire boats from Kris Cruisers at Datchet, near Windsor.
If want to be more active try canoeing or kayaking:
London Kayak Tours operate out of Windsor and London and offer tours from one hour with basic tuition. Don't worry - they'll show you how to paddle a kayak and all the tours include a health & safety brief and all necessary equipment including recreational touring kayaks, buoyancy aids. Their British Canoe Union instructors are experts, approachable and fun. SPECIAL OFFER Windsor Kayak 1 Hour Tour -includes basic instruction (2-4-1 Special Offer).
Henley Canoe Hire are based in Henley-on-Thames but will meet you at various stations along the river outside of London. You can hire a canoe for a day or more, great for all the family; choose the Kid’s Wildlife Adventure, Henley to Sonning.
If you want to take the easy way out, join a public river cruise with Hobbs of Henley, French Brothers at Windsor, Salters Steamers at various points between Oxford and Windsor and Thames Rivercruise at Caversham or City Cruises and boat trips in London, Thames River Services, provided on all-weather boats.
French Brothers offers a variety of cruise options and at this time of year the most popular one is the 40 minute trip from Windsor travelling upstream to Boveney Lock. The view of the castle from the river is undoubtedly the finest there is and the trip is a good length for children. Home Park is close by providing excellent playground and picnic facilities.
Thames Rivercruise operates from Caversham Reading. Embark here and you can combine it with a visit to Mapledurham, the only working watermill on the Thames.
Thames River Services provides the original Westminster to Greenwich sightseeing tour including The Thames Flood Barrier. Circular Cruise Westminster operates a hop-on hop-off sightseeing service from Westminster Pier calling at Embankment Pier, Festival Pier, Bankside Pier and St Katharine’s Pier (for Tower of London).
If you’re in London City Cruises offers the Family River Red Rover which is ideal for families on an ambitious day out in London. Pay for two adults and up to three kids go free! Possibly the best value sightseeing ticket in town. Or why not try City Cruises Thamesjet! A full-on, adrenaline-fueled ride of your life on the only jet boat fleet on the river (well apart from police and military boats which patrol the Thames).
Or try one of the themed cruises:
Salters Steamers - Alice in Wonderland Cruise -2.5 hour round trip taking in views of Iffley Lock passing through Osney Lock into Port Meadow with its abundance of wildlife.
Hobbs of Henley – Wildlife Cruise – The wildlife of the River Thames is well known for providing the inspiration for Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’. Join a voyage of discovery with the Chilterns Conservation Board to spot the hidden nature along the Thames.
French Brothers – Historic Steamboat Cruise - A cruise on a genuine steam vessel and a journey that takes you through the back garden of Windsor Castle and history unfolds.
Check out the full programme of themed cruises.
Cliveden National Trust & Gardens
The impressive gardens and majestic woodlands overlooking the Thames capture the grandeur of a bygone age. For younger visitors, the Storybook Play Den encourages imaginations to run wild as you play amongst wooden carvings of favourite storybook characters whilst the 500 metres of winding paths in the Cliveden Maze make it a challenge for all ages to find the centre. Check out 50 spring-time things to do before you're 11¾ at Cliveden build a den or fly a kite….
Hampton Court Palace
Discover the value for money family ticket at Hampton Court Palace; includes access to the palace, maze and gardens, plus a multi-language audio guide, costumed guided tours, children's activity trails, new Magic Garden play area, the Tudor Kitchens, the Young Henry VIII exhibition and much more. Family trails are the perfect way to explore Hampton Court Palace and a ghostly children’s trail is available to help you track down our ghosts...
The Savill Garden offers beautiful gardens with buggy-friendly paths - consider combining a trip to the nearby Obelisk Lawn play area with an afternoon in The Savill Garden for a fun family day out. It’s free for children under 6 to visit The Savill Garden, and there are excellent offers for families and children under 16.
New for children up to 15 Wonder Woods at Stonor - provides hours of entertainment including swinging, jumping, sliding and learning.
For little ones there’s super-soft sand and pumping water or a playhouse. There’s rocking deer, a wibbly wobble dish, seesaw and slide too.
Older children can climb the Wonder Wood pile and twisty rope tangle and there’s a wavy slide, giant nest swing and spooky tunnels too, not forgetting the 50 metre zip wire.
There’s a picnic area or a Visitor
Parents will have to watch jealously from our picnic tables or giant log benches. At least food, drinks and snacks are only metres away in our Visitor Centre, fully equipped with bathrooms and baby-changing facilities.
Museums are fun places these days and great for rainy days
Voted one of the top museums in the world by The Times, The River & Rowing Museum, Henley shows what a great time can be had in a museum. There are interactive displays such as Row Together, visit the magical Wind in the Willows exhibition, which brings to life the much-loved story with 3D models, lighting and music. Why not visit on one of the Family Days which offer extra activities for your admission price.
Oxford Castle Unlocked -Take a costume-guided tour today and let the characters reveal their fascinating stories entrenched in the building’s 1,000 year history. Climb the Saxon St George’s Tower, descend to the 900 year old crypt, explore the Debtors’ Tower and Prison D-Wing and scale the Mound of the 11th century motte-and-bailey castle.
Museums offer a variety of ways to engage as a family, from free family trails or activities. Another best for families is the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Make a bee-line to the Pitt Rivers and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History for a relaxing afternoon. Try their activity backpacks, sorting boxes, trails, colouring sheets, story corner and craft activities. Suitable for all ages.
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Don’t forget there are endless ideas for adventure on the river. Check out our ideas for Great Family Days Out. The simplest way to explore the river is a rowing boat For a rainy day visit one of the Thames Valley Museums.
Fun on the River Thames doesn't always have to cost you. There are plenty of free ways to have a cheap day out with the kids on the River Thames. Take a stroll, get on your bike, catch a fish or play Pooh Sticks...
There really is so much to do on the river and nearby, that a day is not long enough. There are plenty of family-friendly places to stay nearby or on the river. Make your base at one of our family friendly hotels and you can discover history or enjoy a spot of camping...